Students and their teacher were left confused after a Cornell University New York, senior Letitia Chai, delivered her honours thesis after stripping down to her bra and underwear in the class to protest against oppressive beliefs and discrimination.
At least two dozen of the students also undressed in solidarity.
Chai removed all her clothes except for her undergarments during her “Acting in Public” presentation Saturday as a demonstration against her professor, Rebekah Maggor, who questioned her attire during her talk about refugee relocation.
“When I got up to start, my professor said: ‘Is that really what you would wear?”
“Your shorts are too short.”
Chai, who said she was filled with “rage and disbelief” after the incident, took to her Facebook to write about the confrontation.
She recalled wearing a “long-sleeve blue button-down shirt and denim cut-offs,” which she alleges her professor told her was “inviting the male gaze away from the content of my presentation and onto my body.
“An international male student agreed with the professor.”
Chai said Maggor tried to justify her question by explaining she was addressing her from the point of view of a concerned mother, to which Chai replied, that her mom “is a Feminist, Gender, Sexuality Studies professor” who would’ve been proud of her for her outfit.
In the class syllabus, students’ “dress” is one of the course requirements.
“For your performances, dress appropriately for the persona you will present,” the syllabus reads, “For example, how would you dress for a specific job interview?
“How would you dress when introducing a famous speaker at a particular conference? How would you dress to give a speech at a protest rally?”
The students in the class, while still supporting Chai, wrote a joint letter defending the professor’s comments, but nevertheless the faculty will undergo “training in diversity, equity, and inclusion” as a result of the exchange, according to an email Chai posted on Monday.
Maggor and Chai refused to comment further on the issue.